“Just read on the line, don’t try to pronounce it phonetically. And don’t try to read anything into it!” the repeated warning were becoming frustrating to the Lab Technician. He was tiring of repeating them.
“Okay, I’ll try again.” The short, fifty-some aged man shook himself in the chair, sitting up much more rigidly, hands draped over the end of the table with fingertips, one handful on either side of the stiff board that the equation was printed on.
“One letter or number or symbol at a time.” He was reminded by the white coat wearing laboratory assistant behind him.
“C” he was deliberately going excruciatingly slow. Mixing up the equation’s factors, letters, and numbers four times was beginning to be embarrassing. He felt like he was never going to read it correctly and he was getting very nervous. That certainly didn’t help. His whole life had been an agonizing test so far, and he was working hard at this just to get away from the challenges of life for a short time.
“Good, and the next letter is…?” he was prompted to continue. There was a maximum pause allowable, dependent upon the frequency and duration of previous pauses. If you broke the pattern, you would break the code and it wouldn’t propel you across the universe.
“Good, and this one just read the two words together, “contained in” The prompt came before he had a chance to read it. The Lab Tech was also trying very hard to send this man on his way.
“Thanks, I always forget to read them as one symbol.” The traveler clarified. There was an immediate gasp and sigh behind him. The lab coat fluttered as the arms of the technician flew into the air in exasperation, catching the coat as they rose.
“Damn!” he grabbed the stiff paper off of the table and headed for the door, leaving the traveler, well, remaining in place.
“Look at this! Look at this!” the lab technician tried to explain his exasperation to a colleague. We couldn’t make it any easier than this!” he shouted as the door closed finally. He regretted that he had spoken before the door closed, but he just couldn’t hold it in any longer. Now he may have to face consequences for his careless actions.
It wasn’t every day that the son of a president decided to make the trip across the universe. It was costly and very time consuming. Once the trip began it would take a minimum of a year for the return. It was time better spent learning the political process. It was something that the President required for his son, something that his political party required. After all, who could possibly beat the son of a standing president.
The president himself could not run for a third term, and his vice-president was a total idiot. His contribution to the last election was that he came from the other end of the country. But even a stupid son of the president couldn’t help but win. The next election would be a challenge by anyone’s guess.
The lab technician decided to expose his surprise. It was his last hope, but it was untried and dangerous. “Look, I recorded the whole thing, minus the last two symbols. The problem is that it still has to be read by the person doing the travelling. I’m hoping to get this idiot into a chant, and letting him follow it right to the end, and Poof!”
“That should work.” The slightly older Technician admitted. “Make it rhythmic enough and he should be able to follow it, along with the written text to read along with of course. Go give it a try.” He encouraged. He also knew that the president wanted him returned as soon as possible so he could begin training him politically.” If this lab experience was any indication, the President would have his hands full once he returned.
He returned to the room walking stiffly. His laboratory coat stayed stiff and crisp along his sides. He replaced the text in front of the dull presidential hopeful. He explained just what he was intending, and they began chanting the text together. The lab technician was pleased that somehow the symbols being read had a pattern that this dolt somehow picked up on. He believed it was the music lessons that the slow study had suffered through for many years. It was the President’s wife’s contribution to his education, and seemed to be the only thing that stuck through the years.
“Okay, are you ready?” the Tech asked excitedly. They hurriedly grabbed each other’s hands and shook for a successful repeat of the chant. The Lab Tech stood behind the seated traveler, almost whispering the symbols into his ear. They began to move faster and faster, not even keeping with the slow pace that they had practiced.
Symbols flew out from their mouths and disappeared into the air, reverberations quashed by the baffling on the wall. The Tech kept in mind that he couldn’t utter the last symbol, but he would have to be careful at this pace. He was actually enjoying the rhythm, the up and down lilts of their speech.
Finally they got to the last symbol and the traveler spoke it, “Key”
“Ki” he was immediately corrected.
“Thanks. The presidential dolt spoke clearly.
But it was too late, not only had he added a word to the speech once again, nullifying the equation, but there was no one behind him to hear, or to accept the gratitude. In the instant the correction was made, the time/space calculation was opened and a man began the six month journey to the other end of the universe.
He would return, to his own embarrassment, in one year. It also took a period of six months for the return trip. The actual travel didn’t take this long, no one could survive it if it did. All the calculations were proven with the first few jumps. At the other end they simply read the equation backwards. Reading it forward again at the other end had dire consequences. That person was never heard from again. No one could explain the six months, nor could they change the formula to compensate for it. It simply was.
The question was whether the lab technician would return immediately upon arrival at the other end, which of course was a year’s time at this end. Those at the other end got to live their past life, one year’s worth, while vacationing. Nothing done over there changed anything at this end, so it could be lived with total freedom.
Perhaps the technician wouldn’t make the same mistake the second time and the president’s son would return instead. Maybe he would just be too embarrassed to return and would decide to live the rest of his life there, without ever having made the mistake. Only the people at this end, and himself would know that it ever occurred. No one over there would ever know.
It was a dilemma that wouldn’t be resolved for a year’s time.